Ghostbusters: Afterlife – A Resurrection or a Zombie?

Ghostbusters 3 – is it worth the call?

We’ve been waiting a very long time for the latest addition to the Ghostbusters canon. The first Ghostbusters: Afterlife trailer debuted way back in January 2019, but the film itself didn’t reach the big screen until almost two years later. So, was it worth the wait, or is this just a cynical cash-in on a much-loved franchise?

The Critics’ Response

It’s fair to say that Jason Reitman’s take on his father’s films has received a mixed reception from the critics. Robbie Collin in the Daily Telegraph rated it just two stars, describing it as ‘something weird that don’t look good’, while the Guardian summed it up as ‘a slimy, stinking corpse of a sequel.’

The BBC’s chief film critic, Mark Kermode, was even more scathing, posting a picture of Jurassic Park dinosaur dung on Twitter and saying ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife really is a pile of old poo.’ But is it really that bad, or are these critics being unfair? Well, that depends on who you are.

One for the Fans

There’s no denying that Afterlife is aimed squarely at the fans with endless nods to the original plot and dialogue, but I had no problem with that. As a fangirl, these made me grin widely from start to finish and my husband’s arm was bruised from all the knowing nudges I gave him. The original Ghostbusters is a classic and frankly, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

But it’s not just the fanboys who will enjoy the new film. With its warm 80’s Amblin nostalgia and Goonies-style cast of young heroes, this could easily win over a whole new generation of Ghostbusters and spark a successful franchise. Put aside the heavy references to the original and you still have a rollicking adventure film, packed with exciting monsters and heroic battles, where the modern characters take on an ancient evil.

Too Many References?

Some critics, including Mark Kermode on Wittertainment, have complained that the film is just a cut and paste of the bits we loved from the first film. It’s no spoiler to say that our favourite demi-god, Gozar the Gozarian, is back for more and his evil plans unfold in a very familiar way. Yet such ancient myths have become part of everyday culture these days, featuring on everything from stunningly illustrated fantasy-themed titles at online casinos to video games like Gods and Heroes, so why change this winning formula?

Other elements have been repurposed in a much more creative way. The Stay-Puft marshmallows appear as Minions-style mischief makers, whilst favourite Slimer gets a makeover as Muncher, with an altogether more vicious appetite. Even Ecto-1 gains a gunner seat and a mobile ghost trap. Together these give the film a feeling of reinvention, rather than just rehash.

The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is not so big this time around

Not Funny?

One of the loudest complaints from the critics is that Ghostbusters: Afterlife is too serious. Naturally, without the heavy influence of Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, it was never going to be as funny as the original, but there are still plenty of laughs to be had. The banter between Paul Rudd’s science teacher and Carrie Coon’s mom raise their fair share of smiles, while Logan Kim’s turn as Podcast has some priceless moments of comic timing.

The rest of the cast hold their ends up too, with the exception of Finn Wolfhard, who always looks uncomfortable. Perhaps they should’ve cast someone for their acting and comedy skills, rather than just to gain a link to the Stranger Things audience. On the plus side, the returning cast members are as good as ever, though you have to wait until the very end of the credits to see Sigourney Weaver.

The Verdict

It’s clearly very easy to be sniffy about the new Ghostbusters film, but if you check your cynicism at the door, you’ll have a great time. Yes, it does play to the fans and yes, lots of it is strongly rooted in the original movie. But that doesn’t automatically make it terrible. If you can rise above all that, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a thoroughly enjoyable romp in its own right, with the added nostalgia and in-jokes never spoiling the film for anyone fresh to the franchise.